Clash of the Titans Tour: Iron Giants
Originally published in Guitar World, February 2010
Slayer, Megadeth and Testament will share stages again for the first time in 18 years when the American Carnage tour kicks off this January. In this oral history, the thrash metal masters recall the original event that brought them together on one groundbreaking bill: the historic 1990-91 Clash of the Titans tour.
The Clash of the Titans tour was the last major hurrah for hardcore headbangers before alt-rock, grunge, rap-metal and nu-metal took over the charts in the Nineties. Presented between September 1990 and July 1991, it was a legendary package bill that featured such thrash metal giants as Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament and Suicidal Tendencies devastating audiences across Europe and the U.S.
The month-long European leg of Clash of the Titans began on September 22 in Genk, Belgium, and featured Slayer, Megadeth, Testament and Suicidal Tendencies. After a seven-month break, the tour hit the States with Anthrax replacing Testament and future grunge stars Alice in Chains filling in for Suicidal Tendencies. Not only was it the first time a metal package tour played huge places like New York’s Madison Square Garden and the San Diego Sports Arena but it also marked the consolidation of three of the “Big Four” thrash bands for the first time.
Recalls Slayer guitarist Kerry King, “There might have even been talk of a ‘Big Four’ tour back then, but we probably couldn’t get Metallica onboard. But we had three pieces of it, and that was all the management and promoters needed. It was a big to-do, man, and people came out for it.”
Named after a 1981 fantasy movie about the Greek legend of Perseus, Clash of the Titans was more than just the collision of metal giants. At times it was like a real war, thanks to Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, who was dealing badly with his newfound sobriety. By the time the bands got to Europe, Mustaine was at odds with Suicidal Tendencies and Slayer and hadn’t exactly ingratiated himself with Testament. Barbs were exchanged onstage, and the tension was palpable. The only thing more surprising than the tour continuing in North America with Anthrax and Alice in Chains was the fact that nobody dropped off the bill and no punches were thrown between band members.
Now, for the first time since the original Clash of the Titans tour made history across multiple continents, Megadeth, Slayer and Testament are set to share stages once again, this time on the American Carnage tour (beginning January 18 in Seattle, Washington). “In this economy, packaging is the way to go, because nobody’s got any money,” King says. “I never would have thought in a million years that Slayer and Megadeth would do a tour together, because we’re both headliners, but in this day and age it just makes sense. It’s like getting to see two shows for the price of one. When we agreed to do these shows, I thought of the fans first. I thought, I’m not gonna shoot this in the foot just because I’ve had issues with Mustaine in the past.”
Mustaine, too, is ready to bury the hatchet with his former adversaries. Commenting on Slayer frontman Tom Araya’s recent back injury that led to the cancellation of shows, Mustaine said, “When I heard about Tom’s back problems, I was really worried. It wasn’t about business at that point; it was about us reestablishing a kinship, because we are founding members of something that changed the world and will continue to change the world. So to all the naysayers that said it couldn’t be done, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but kiss my ass.”
As they prepare to embark on American Carnage, Mustaine, King and Testament’s Eric Peterson—as well as others who took part in the original Clash of the Titans tour—look back at the explosive concerts, bloody calamities and drunken antics of one of thrash metal’s most memorable tours.